Sunday, 22 March 2015

Gravesend junior parkrun 21: snot-a-roos

Last time we went to Gravesend junior parkrun, Matilda unfortunately took a tumble during the start and hurt her knees. Ever since that day she hasn't been too keen on returning. Her reason has been that it has been too cold, which is fair enough. We have been filling the void with a combination of swimming, lazing around, or have been to the Sunday mornings 'movies for juniors' screenings at the cinema (the entry fee is £1.50 per person - and I do like a bargain).

Since that visit the course has been reversed which seems to have made a massive difference to the problems that were beginning to occur at the start as the event became more popular. A huge thumbs up to the team for recognising and acting on this!

bolting matilda [photo: dawn granger]

Matilda had a tonne of energy and was bouncing around all over the place as we walked over to the start-finish with fellow parkrunners Jane and Alex. Shortly after arriving I had a chat with the event director for the forthcoming Lullingstone parkrun, and then it was time for the warm up - which Matilda loves!

Once thoroughly warmed up, the junior runners lined up and the run director said 'ready...' but before he gave the order to go, Matilda bolted. After a slight pause from the run director and a cheeky backwards grin from Matilda, the rest of the runners were despatched.

off-piste [photo:7t]

Now. There is an official junior parkrun course that was created by the adults and there is the alternative course that is created by children, more specifically, was created by Matilda*. Today. For most of the course there is no choice but to follow the prescribed route, but in a few spots there are some slightly off-piste variations of the course that can be used (unofficially of course).

There was quite a bit of river/sea debris along the riverside path and this became the first additional feature. Instead of skirting around the edge, Matilda decided that the random bits of seaweed and logs would become hurdles. Around a few corners and there's a small off-road section beside the main path containing some large rocks and small grass mounds - obviously these are to be jumped on, run over and sprinted down.

off-piste [photo:7t]

Another theme of today's run was Matilda's runny nose (aka snot-a-roos), which every few minutes needed to be wiped away (Daddy, I have snot-a-roos). And being such a well organised parent, I of course did not bring any tissues.... My punishment for being so unprepared was to donate my sleeve to the snot-a-roos cause. Which might seem a bit 'eurgh' to non-parents, but as a parent I think you just get on and deal with it in the best way you can at the time.

Further on, the path is the easier option but why take that when you can easily sneak past the wicked witch and jump through the frame surrounding a small tree. Or you can even stop for a few seconds to pick up some feathers for your collection! Then there were the marshals offering high-fives - today Matilda had seemingly decided to turn these into chest-fives - I'm not sure if this is a new thing or if she was just being lazy!

chest-five [photo:7t]

This continued around both laps which of course meant that a personal best was out of the question. But the brilliant thing is that she doesn't care about personal bests.

At this age it's so important to let kids be kids. If during the run they want to run around off the path, pick up random stones, briefly run the opposite way along the course, or even pop into the playground to have a quick slide, this is surely the time to embrace it. Because once they get older they might become obsessed with personal bests and their Garmin splits, and that innocent, care-free spirit may be lost forever.

sneaking past the wicked witch [photo:7t]

The results for Gravesend junior parkrun event 21 can be found here

*other children may have previously used similar methods

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Dartford parkrun 35 - the twenty-one minute pacer

A stiff breeze and colder than expected weather conditions awaited the one-hundred-and-forty runners at Dartford parkrun on Saturday 21 March 2015. And with the third run of every month being 'chase-the-pacer' day, there was a real sense of anticipation in the air.

At 9am the run director, Richey Estcourt, addressed the diverse gathering of eager parkrunners with the morning's run briefing. This included an introduction to the day's team of six pacers, who between them aimed to complete the course in 21, 23, 24, 26, 28 and 30 minutes.

on the dirt incline [photo: brian page]

The 21 minute pacer, Steven Stockwell, revealed to us that he was keen to complete the course within 1% of his goal finish time, he said 'I'm keen to complete the course within 1% of my goal finish time'. He explained further; '1% works out at 12.6 seconds either side of my goal time, so that translates into a finish time window between 20:48 through to 21:12'.

As the runners streamed off into the distance, a volunteer was overheard saying 'I love the sight of all those runners heading off into the distance, it gave me goosebumps as I watched them slither around the first corner like a really long, human snake'.

Dartford parkrun's course features a combination of tarmac paths, a stony path, grass and dirt paths. The recent winter weather had made for challenging conditions on some sections, but now that spring is virtually upon us, these areas are drying out, which in turn should lead to an increase in personal best times over the next few months.

pacer / pacees at the end of lap 1 [photo: richey estcourt]

After the run, our 21 minute pacer revealed how his attempt at pacing unfolded. 'The first 500 metres were a little fast but once I had negotiated the incline on the first lap, I had broken about even. I reached the 1 kilometre point a few seconds behind schedule'.

Not deterred, he used the second kilometre, which is naturally quicker, to make up the lost time. 'When I checked my watch at the 1.5 kilometre point I was happy to report to my pacees that we were bang on target for a 21 minute finish time.

As he entered the second and final lap, he pushed the pace a little in order to reach the 3rd kilometre point a few seconds ahead of where an even pace would suggest. He explained that 'the fourth kilometre features round two of the battle against the hill, and as a result it is the slowest kilometre split of the entire run. To have a few seconds in the bag before reaching this point is quite handy' and 'as the course is not entirely flat, it is best to focus on running at an even effort rather than an even pace'.

checking the watch right before crossing the finish line [photo: richey estcourt]

The fourth kilometre point was reached a little ahead of schedule, and all that was left to do was cruise through the final kilometre stretch and arrive at the finish, which he did in an official finish time of 20.54. Steven summed up his run by saying 'I was really happy with my finish time. It was my best pacing performance to date and being six seconds away from my target meant that I was within 0.5% of my goal time.'

Before heading into the Dartford Harriers clubhouse for post-run refreshments, Steven added 'I like to think that I helped a few runners to get the best out of themselves this morning. I think at least one of them scored a new personal best and that really is the icing on the cake'.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Great Lines parkrun (freedom run) video

For more information please visit the Great Lines parkrun webpage.

Dartford parkrun 34 - This is fun!

The night before parkrun, my daughter announced to me that she fancied a spot of buggy running, so at 6.30am the following day I was sat there on the bed trying to gently wake her so we could get over to the park in time to start setting up the course.

About 15 minutes later she finally opened her eyes and confirmed that she still wanted to come with me. I got her dressed as she slipped in and out of her sleepy state. We left the house, grabbed the running buggy from the garage and hit the road to Central Park.

i love it when gary volunteers as photographer [photo: gary bignell]

As the first of the early bird volunteers to arrive, we got on with unpacking the kit and a few minutes later, Richey and Adam arrived. All together we set off around the course to put out the signage and cones. About 30 minutes later we were back at DpHQ where we eventually managed to get ourselves ready to run.

When running with a buggy at parkrun I have often stuck to the parkrun buggy running guidelines which are to start at the back and to try to keep to the side of the main body of runners. However, if I start at the back and run at my normal buggy running pace, I end up within the main body of runners, which increases the risk of an incident. So..

passing the cafe [photo: gary bignell]

..after weighing up the pros and cons, I have decided that the best starting position for me (at Dartford) is to line up on the main footpath to the side of the main field of runners (following half of the official advice) and to start at a strong pace so that I reach the first corner before the main body of runners. I can then filter in with the first 20 or so runners. And that's what I did at this event.

We went around the course in the usual way. The muddy corner was still muddy but not as wet as in previous weeks. The subsequent incline is hard work on lap one, but always feels that little bit harder second time around. When running with a buggy, this is amplified further especially with the bumpy tree roots to negotiate.

at the finish line [photo: adam hunt]

Matilda was very vocal on today's run and spent a great deal of time giggling and screaming 'THIS IS FUN!', so I think it's clear that she enjoyed it. And apart from one point when a dog stopped right in front of us and we came to a halt, the run was incident free.

When we finished, we quickly got changed, did a bit of writing down of non-scanning barcodes and as we had a very healthy supply of volunteers (lots of resting runners in advance of the next day's Dartford Half Marathon), we generally just chatted and soaked up the great atmosphere. Once the results had been processed, I was happy to see that we had run a new buggy running course best of 21.59.

For the record, at the moment I reckon the course takes about 90-120 seconds longer to complete with the buggy compared to a standard time trial effort. That's around 8-10% slower than normal TT pace if you want to adjust it for different paced runners. It's the grass and that incline that does it - If it was flat and all tarmac it would be around 40 seconds slower which is about 3.3% difference.


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